In Full Flight

Local Southern Gentlemen and Their Airplanes

 

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
– Leonardo da Vinci

 

Although da Vinci wasn’t talking about a trip in a modern-day aircraft, anyone who has experienced the miracle of flight will tell you that his words hold much truth. For those who spend their time soaring in the sky, aviation isn’t just a way to get from one place to another. It’s a way to connect with loved ones, find inner peace, and experience nature’s splendor. Meet the men who have a passion for piloting and know what it’s like to be flying high.

 

By Christina Cannon | Photography by Lanewood Studio

Jim Coltrin and Andy Bailey

 

Although they have different experiences with aviation, a passion for piloting is what brought friends and business partners Jim Coltrin and Andy Bailey together. The duo met in 2019 when a mutual friend introduced them, and they instantly bonded over flying. Their love for aviation has come to take center stage, and they even named their company, True North Advisors, after their passion for flying.

“Only about 2% of the population can fly a plane,” explains Coltrin. “It’s always pretty cool when you meet someone and share a hobby with them that not everyone can do. Piloting played a big role in our friendship in the beginning, and it has also brought us closer as business partners.” 

Coltrin’s father first taught him to fly when he was just 10 years old, and by age 17, he had already received his pilot’s license. Bailey, on the other hand, was first introduced to flying several years after joining the Army in 2002. Upon leaving the military in 2014, Bailey learned to fly fixed-wing aircraft after years of flying helicopters.

“I enjoy traveling more than flying,” admits Bailey. “Being able to fly allows for a great lifestyle. I get to meet so many people, and it’s always great getting to meet other pilots. Not to mention, you don’t have to deal with traffic.”

This ability to network and also visit clients plays a major role in the lives of Bailey and Coltrin, but the duo derives a lot of personal pleasure from piloting as well.

Coltrin currently flies a Piper Cherokee Six 300, which he co-owns with his father, and while he does note that it’s a bit on the slower side when in cruising speeds, the plane can carry a lot of weight and is very stable. One of Coltrin’s favorite places to visit is the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas, and piloting also allows him to regularly visit his daughter in Columbia, South Carolina.

Bailey’s aircraft of choice is his Piper Arrow, which he notes is highly efficient and aerodynamic. Although Bailey only travels with family for about 10% of his trips, he recalls the time he flew his daughters to Crystal River, Florida, as one of his most memorable. “They wanted to swim with manatees, and it was a special trip because I was able to do that for them,” Bailey remembers.

Bailey also likes to take in the warm weather at the beach and notes that he can get to Destin, Florida, in about two hours. It’s a trip he makes regularly. Regardless of where and why they travel, flying has had a major impact on Coltrin and Bailey’s relationship both professionally and personally.

“Flying is very special to me. I have a network of family and friends that I like to fly with, and it helps to grow our bond,” says Coltrin. “I enjoy it because it helps me relax from a demanding job and provides me with a certain sense of freedom that I can’t get any other way.”

Jay Jolley

 

When he was a teenager, Jay Jolley’s father would spend quality time with him by taking him out to fly radio-controlled airplanes. Several years later, on his 17th birthday, Jolley received his pilot’s license, making it clear that his love of aviation wasn’t to be left behind with his childhood. 

Today, Jay owns several aircraft and uses them as a way to create, strengthen, and nurture his relationships in life.

“The aviation community is very welcoming and engaging, and flying opens the doors to so many new and long-term relationships,” explains Jolley. “I love to take someone flying who hasn’t experienced the personal nature of general aviation, and flying family and friends around brings them a whole new perspective on flight and aviation.”

But flying doesn’t just bolster Jolley’s relationships with his family and friends. It also is somewhat of a personal endeavor. Jolley notes that there is a certain peace and tranquility that comes with flying solo, but his self-discovery doesn’t stop there.

While Jolley also owns a Carbon Cub and Cirrus Vision, his pride and joy is his amphibious AirCam, nicknamed The Road Runner largely due to its paint job, which is inspired by the 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Superbird automobile. When Jolley purchased his AirCam in 2012, it came in two large, wooden crates that contained thousands of pieces. It took him 20 months to build the AirCam, but the process has been well worth it.

“Flying an aircraft that I built is one of my most rewarding achievements,” elaborates Jolley. “My father taught me more than anyone else, and when he was steering me toward aviation, he left an indelible mark on my life for which I am so thankful. I would love to see his smile if he were here to experience a flight in The Road Runner!”

When it comes to his most memorable flight, Jolley recalls the time he flew The Road Runner, in concert with three other AirCams, across the United States with a detour over the Grand Canyon.

“Flying has provided so many awesome memories, but flying over the Grand Canyon at 12,000 feet in an open cockpit aircraft that was built with my own hands is the winner,” says Jolley. The trip took 14 days and 72 flight hours, and it consisted of stops in 12 states and at 56 different airports.

“Being a pilot and having the privilege of flying is a very rewarding experience and, in many ways, a relaxing experience,” says Jolley. “To me, flying is peaceful, and the view is breathtaking. Flying requires focus and allows me to isolate myself from the rest of life’s distractions and pressures.” 

Mike Brown

Flying is and has always been a family affair for Mike Brown. With a father who worked for Delta, Brown was fascinated with aviation from an early age. As a young boy, he loved sitting in the observation tower, where he would watch DC-3s pull into Lovell Field.

Today, Brown has passed along his love of flight to his son, Michael, who obtained his pilot’s license while he was still in high school and is now pursuing a career in aviation law.

“I love flying because it provides freedom of escape. There are no interruptions. It’s just the machine and you,” explains Brown. “When you fly, it’s like nature, man, and machine are working perfectly in tandem to achieve a property known only by the birds and the angels.”

Brown, who took his first flight lesson in 1989, has owned a multitude of single-engine planes over his 31-year piloting career, but he’s since settled down with two aircrafts, each with their own purpose.

The family’s 2011 amphibious American Legend Cub, referred to as the Little Yellow Cub, is best suited for low-level sightseeing and can land and take off on water, grass, and asphalt. The plane can be flown from the front or back seats, and during warm weather, the side doors and windows can be opened, providing for an even more scenic experience.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Browns’ 2003 Cessna T182T. This aircraft is a great all-purpose, cross-country plane that can reach speeds of 161 miles per hour and heights of 20,000 feet.

“We jokingly call the Cessna, Big Iron,” says Brown. “In aviation circles, the name Big Iron is used to describe really big, complex airplanes. Our Cessna is hardly Big Iron worthy, but compared to the Cub, it is certainly Big Iron to our family.”

Brown enjoys his fleet because it allows for both slow flight and cross-country travel, but he notes the scenic opportunities in Chattanooga are hard to beat.

“There is just something special about flying over Chattanooga, Chickamauga Lake, and the Tennessee River at a low level early on a summer morning,” says Brown. “People may not realize it, but Chattanooga is one of the most beautiful places to fly in the country. We have mountains and rivers and low-traffic airspace. A smooth water landing at the Chickamauga Dam on a crisp winter evening before nightfall is indescribable.”

 

Pursuing Passion

Brown took his first flight lesson in 1989 and has owned many single-engine planes over his 31-year piloting career.

Morty Lloyd

 

For Morty Lloyd, aviation is in his DNA. Lloyd, whose father was also a pilot, took his first flight when he was only 2 weeks old.

“As a child, I basically grew up in an airplane and was immersed in aviation from a very early age,” explains Lloyd. “God created me to fly. When I do so, I feel His pleasure. It’s a part of who I am.”

With a wife who is a retired Delta flight attendant, the miracle of flight has been a constant in Lloyd’s life. Lloyd and his wife, Joyce, live just off of a local airport, where they can be close to their hangar and the joy that flying brings to both of them. “Flying for Joyce and me is a lifestyle,” says Lloyd. “We simply enjoy airplanes and the people who fly them.”

The duo loves aviation so much that they even got engaged 1,000 feet in the air. “I asked my wife to marry me during a sunset flight over Lake Ocoee. It is a beautiful flight that we often still take in the evening,” explains Lloyd.

Lloyd has owned a handful of planes over the years since he first purchased his Steen Skybolt at the age of 29, but his Cirrus SR22, nicknamed Cirri, is by far his favorite.

“I currently own my second Cirrus SR22, and it has been my favorite aircraft to own,” says Lloyd. “The Cirrus is a wonderful plane for long-distance travel. It’s fast, comfortable, and is manufactured with a ballistic parachute.”

Lloyd notes that, in the event of a really bad day, he can pull a handle and a parachute will deploy, which provides some added peace of mind to him and his passengers.

“Joyce and I really enjoy seeing various parts of the United States and the Caribbean, and the Cirrus provides a lot of fuel for long-range travel,” explains Lloyd. “In addition, the Cirrus provides great situational awareness in all types of weather. Flying in inclement weather is just part of general aviation, but this plane makes bad weather much safer with all of its safety features. Above all, the Cirrus is a delight to fly.”

From hosting fly-ins with friends to recreating the night he proposed, aviation takes center stage in Lloyd’s life.

“I just love seeing God’s creation from the air,” says Lloyd. “This area has some of the prettiest topography of anywhere, and seeing it from above is such a special blessing.”

 

 

(Photos by Rich Smith)

Mani Ravee

 

When Mani Ravee was a young boy, it wasn’t unusual for his father to drive out to the local airport and drop him off.

“I would sit on the fence post and watch airplane after airplane come and go. I would watch them take off and just keep watching until I couldn’t see them anymore,” says Ravee, who currently serves as a colonel in the military. “Ever since I was 5 years old, all I wanted to do was fly.”

While Col. Ravee’s love for airplanes never fell to the wayside, it wasn’t until he was in school completing his medical residency that his dream to become a pilot turned into a reality. After driving by a small airport and seeing a sign for a flight school, Col. Ravee took the plunge and enrolled.

“On weekends I would go and take flight classes, and I would just hang out at the airport,” explains Col. Ravee. “After I had taken a few lessons, I was talking with some guys about learning to fly, and coincidentally, they were trying to sell a plane.”

It was then that Col. Ravee purchased his 1974 Cessna 172M. Even though he has made many customizations and upgrades to his purchase, 20 years later his Cessna is still going strong and has helped his family make many precious memories.

“This is absolutely true, and my wife will tell you, when we had our daughter Anjali, the first word out of her mouth was not mama or dada – it was ‘appy.’ She was trying to say airplane,” says Col. Ravee. “Every Saturday when she was a little girl, she would be up and have her teeth brushed by 6:30 in the morning, because she knew that wheels were up at 7:00. That little girl just loved to fly.”

Col. Ravee notes that Anjali wasn’t even tall enough to see over the glass shield, but they would frequently take off to visit different airports or go out to eat in some faraway city. The duo still takes to the skies whenever Anjali comes home from medical school to visit.

In addition to taking trips with his family, Col. Ravee is also in the midst of building a plane from the wheels up and conducts and teaches drone piloting for search and rescue missions.

“It’s all about learning and creating something, and there’s something special about how God lets you see his perspective of looking down,” says Col. Ravee. “There’s this freedom you get from being up in the sky. You just have to feel it. It’s a completely different perspective.”

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